How Many Gold Medals Would Your Company Win at the ‘B2B Olympics’ ?

The London 2012 Olympic Games are just over a month away now, so I thought it was time to get into the Olympic spirit :). The sports that make up the games are varied in nature and it got me thinking, how would companies fair if they were to compete in the B2B Olympics? An event designed to see how well companies are using B2B technologies to address specific business and supply chain challenges. Is it possible to compare an Olympic sport with a specific business problem? Well let me try and explain during this blog, I will focus on five Olympic sports and how I see them comparing with the various day to day B2B challenges that many companies face.

How many of the following ‘events’ would your company be able to take part in based on whether you are using the B2B technologies described for each sport listed, one, two or possibly all events?

Archery – This sport is one of the oldest in the Olympics and requires utmost accuracy and patience on behalf of the competitors. Archery dates back around 10,000 years when bows and arrows were first used for hunting and warfare, before it developed as a competitive activity in Medieval England. The 128 athletes taking part in the Archery competition will be shooting at a target some 70m away.  Trying to hit a target 122cm in diameter, let alone hit the centre ring measuring just 12.2 cm takes a lot of nerve, skill and determination on behalf of the athletes taking part.

So as Archery is focused primarily on accuracy, have you ever thought about how accurate your B2B documents are as they flow across your supply chain? How much manual rework do you have to undertake to correct documents before they enter an ERP system for example? Did you know that in a recent ERP/B2B integration study up to 34% of data entering an ERP system comes from outside the enterprise, what if it contains inaccurate information? GXS Data Quality and Compliance is one solution that can ensure increased accuracy of business transactions flowing across your supply chain and into enterprise platforms such as ERP systems. Do you have an automated process for checking the quality of business documents across your supply chain?, if so then you can award your company your first gold medal!

Triathlon – Hyde Park London will be hosting the Olympic Triathlon this year, an event that is thought to have started between the two world wars and others say that it originated in the United States in the 1970s. The first Triathlon was held at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and the event consists of a 1500m swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10km run with no breaks and the transition between each event has to be seamless and is part of the competition. For the 110 men and women taking part in this year’s Olympic triathlon it is sure to be a tough test of their own abilities and of course endurance.

The triathlon is almost multi-modal in nature, similar to many of the services offered by global logistics companies where they ship goods across land, sea and air routes around the world 24/7. But how do you keep track of these global shipments? One way is via GXS Active Logistics, a solution which allows you to have a window into your global supply chain and keep track of shipments as they pass across different modes of transport, different country borders and then onto distribution centres or retail outlets. GXS Active Logistics is connected to many of the world’s logistics companies and allows you to not only keep track of shipments, but also monitor the performance of your logistics partners. Do you have a way to seamlessly track shipments anywhere around the world across multi-modal logistics partners?, if so then you can award your company another gold medal!

4 x 100m Relay – This is one of 47 athletic events to be held in the new Olympic Stadium located in East London. The stadium has been built around a 400m oval track and this event relies on four runners being able to effortlessly transport a baton in the quickest possible time from the start to finish line. If the baton is dropped for any reason during the handover period between two runners then it can add significant time to the lap of the track. The runners in this case have to not only be very fit but they also have to be able to handover/receive the baton in a seamless manner otherwise they will lose the relay race.

Being able to exchange the baton seamlessly between runners is a bit like transferring an EDI message across a B2B network. EDI messages need to be carried by a provider who can transport the EDI message from one location to another in a relatively short time and at the same time adhere to local EDI standards where necessary. GXS Trading Grid Messaging Service (TGMS) provides a highly available messaging platform that ensures that your business transactions get from A to B as smoothly as possible.  These transactions may need to be sent via different communication protocols or converted into different document formats, either way TGMS can mediate between any format and provide interconnectivity to many different networks around the world. Do you have the ability to send EDI messages anywhere in the world irrespective of the communication protocol or document format being used ?, if yes then you can award your company another gold medal!

Weightlifting – This ultimately showcases a test of pure strength and it represents the oldest and most basic form of physical competition. Weightlifting appeared at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and today’s sport is divided into 15 weight categories, eight for men and seven for women. The aim of weightlifting is simple, to lift more weight than anyone else and in some cases the strongest competitors may lift more than three times their body weight. At London 2012 there will be 260 competitors in the weight lifting events.

Being able to lift heavy weights such as this is similar to how many companies need to be able to transfer very large files either across their supply chain or between different sites. Large files in this case could be point of sale data, cheque images, financial data or engineering type files. GXS Managed File Transfer solution provides a way to exchange large or important files across a secure network. Using checkpoint restart for example to automatically restart transmissions if they are interrupted for any reason, this is an important for large files as you would not want to start the transmission from the beginning again as it would add considerable time to the delivery of the file. Being able to monitor the health of the network via exception management to ensure data continues to flow smoothly and there are no errors with the transmitted information. Finally being able to have complete knowledge of your document or file’s lifecycle including creation, edits, delivery and deletion. Large file transfer in the past has been through the simple exchange of files on CDROMS or other medium, today this can be achieved securely via an MFT solution. Do you have a means to exchange large files securely across your supply chain?, if yes then you can award your company another gold medal!

Volleyball – In 1895 William G Morgan devised a game he called ‘mintonette’ which he intended as a gentle alternative to basketball for older members of his YMCA gym.  Over a hundred years later and Volleyball is anything but gentle and made its first appearance at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Volleyball is played by two teams of six with the object of the game being to land the ball in the opposition’s half of the court.  Each team is allowed three touches of the ball before it must cross over the net. At London 2012 there will be 288 volleyball players competing at Earl’s Court, a venue first used for Olympic sports at the London 1948 games.

There are two key requirements for members of a volleyball team, collaboration and communication. Two requirements that are also required across many of today’s supply chains.  Being able to collaborate with trading partners is important for improving operational efficiencies and being able to communicate during for example some form of supply chain disruption is equally important.  GXS RollStream provides a collaborative platform that helps to improve collaboration and information management across a trading partner community. The importance of a tool such as RollStream has been made more significant over the past couple of years with the rise in supply chain disruptions caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.  When these disasters strike it becomes more important than ever to be able to communicate with your trading partner community.  RollStream provides an effortless way to manage supplier contact  information, send out mass communication notices to suppliers, undertake assessments perhaps as part of a quality procedure and generally improve the day to day way in which you manage your trading partner community. Do you have a means to effectively manage the day to day collaboration and communications with your entire trading partner community?, if so you can award your company your final gold medal!

So now comes the interesting part, based on just these five areas, how many gold medals did your company win, one?, two?, three?, four? Or five? Adoption of B2B technologies can appear to be a slow and complex process but GXS is here to help, if you would like to go for gold and win the B2B Olympics why not contact us to see how we can help. More information is available from our website.  I will be taking a further look at the Olympics and how B2B plays a part in staging this important sporting event in a future blog entry.

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